Delaney George on photographing powerful black women

A black warrior, drenched in blood, holds a sword. Chain mail hangs from her head. It’s there one second and gone the next.

This vision came to Delaney George in a dream and informed her photo “The King Is Dead”. She filled in the gaps in the narrative by placing the warrior on a horse. The photo was presented at Frieze with gallery 90220, making George at 25 the youngest black photographer to have her work featured at the arts festival.

Now the work will be part of a solo show at Gallery 90220 entitled Notre Recit – presented with The Inspirations & Joys of an Immigrant Child by multidisciplinary visual artist Will “WCMTL” Raojenina. The exhibition includes “The King Is Dead”, “Chipo” and “Illuminate” from Gallery 90220’s Frieze booth, as well as a portfolio of work focusing on Black female expression.

“I’m constantly inspired by the essence of black women and their femininity,” she says. “Black women are art.”

Delaney George at Gallery 90220 is showing her photographs at Frieze 2023.

(Victor Cantey/VCVisions)

George says she often introduces herself in her photography, trying to “walk in my power” alongside her subjects. That goes for The King Is Dead. While the play is “set” in the Middle Ages, when most black women were oppressed, she portrayed her subject as a powerful figure ‘ and overcame all their difficulties. She killed the king, “the only thing trying to keep her down,” says George.

George ventured into photography around 2014 after her mother bought her her first camera. At that time she was modeling. She soon began creating her own portfolio, conceptualizing shoots, styling them and scouting locations.

“The concepts were so deep and so amazing that I realized I can’t be the role model for everything,” says George. “That then inspired me to pick up a camera and apply those concepts to other people.”

A gallery patron views Delaney George's work.

A gallery patron views Delaney George’s work.

(Victor Cantey/VCVisions)

Her photography is heavily influenced by her upbringing in New Orleans. She remembers running through the French Quarter as a kid, surrounded by artists and jazz musicians. Her family roots run deep; Her great-great grandfather is Cie Frazier, the original drummer for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

“New Orleans feels like a person, like a god,” she says, comparing the city to an inspiring older black woman.

“Growing up with this spiritual presence has really carried over into my practice, not only because I feature powerful female figures, but I think the essence of a powerful female figure has accompanied me growing up as a child and throughout my whole life,” she says.

Her work captures the essence of the maternal figures in her life, including her mother, aunt, and grandmother. Hometown Glory is inspired by her aunt and captures her through the style, hair and nails that are the focus of the work.

Gallery installation view from

Gallery installation view of “Hometown Glory” by Delaney George.

(Victor Cantey/VCVisions)

“As I grew up, I learned that many of the black women I was inspired by — I love them for certain aspects of their personality — but were often demonized in society for many of the things I praised them for,” says George.

She wants to show other Black women the beauty of their existence, be it through their fashion or their voice. George witnessed those moments at Frieze first hand.

“Every time I see a black person walking towards this picture at Frieze, their reaction and their happiness and joy at being there is just so warming to me,” she says.

This year’s Frieze was the first George ever attended. She said it was “surreal” to see her work in the artistic environments she grew up in. But at the same time it was a reminder of the lack of representation at prestigious art events and institutions.

A woman stands in front of a hanging photo.

A gallery visitor looking at Delaney George’s Illuminate 1.

(Victor Cantey/VCVisions)

“When I first started working in museums and within museums, a lot of black people, not just women, told me that they had never been to a particular museum, that they never really had a reason to relate to it,” she says .

Few of the works at Frieze focused on black people, which George felt “shows that unfortunately there is still a lot more to do”.

Next, she plans to modernize works by Memphis-based photographer Ernest Withers for an upcoming exhibition and explore interactive and participatory art in her practice.

Delaney George stands in front of a wall that reads:

Delaney George at Frieze 2023.

(Victor Cantey/VCVisions)

Another upcoming project is a sculpture containing a bust of a black woman with an afro that spans six feet. It will take up space and presence, inviting visitors to place Afro picks with messages and art inside. When finished it will be a community art project.

As she switches media, George continues to place Black female figures at the forefront of her work, providing a point of connection for Black viewers.

“I’m thrilled that people are overjoyed to see themselves in my work and to see something they relate to in a place like Frieze, but I think it should be more common,” she says.

Notre Recit by Delaney George

Where: Gallery 90220, 918 E. 60th St., Los Angeles
If: From now until March 12th. Open weekdays (check RSVP availability) and weekends from 5pm to 9pm.
Costs: Free, registration required
The information:

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